UAE's Safestway supermarket started it 1988 Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Part of community

  • Regular customers cite their 'emotional attachment' to the UAE's New Safestway supermarket
  • Others say store has become an integral part of Dubai's Al Wasl community
  • The supermarket was recently acquired by West Zone retail group

Dubai: She’s been coming to the store for “as long as she can remember”.

Twenty three-year-old Haya Al Khatib is one of the many Emirati customers who feels that the New Safestway supermarket is an integral part of the Al Wasl community.

It was recently acquired by West Zone.

Originally set up as a franchise of the American supermarket chain Safeway, Inc, in 1988, it changed hands a few times.

Doulat Sambhwani, the store manager told Gulf News: “It has been under the current name of New Safestway since 1999, but the main store was initially opened up by a different management in the late 1980s.”

It has been under the current name of New Safestway since 1999, but the main store was initially opened up by a different management in the late 1980s.

- Doulat Sambhwani, store manager

But, one thing that has remained unchanged is its community connection.

Haya, who works in an insurance company, has “an emotional attachment to the store”.

More organised

She said: “My mother who lives as far away as Al Barsha, still comes here to buy food. The store is now more organised, and looks different after the renovation, but I am still familiar with many of the aisle staff and the manager who have been here for a long time. It’s good to see familiar faces. My sister used to ask me to go to New Safestway to get specific brands of chips, because they weren’t available anywhere else in Dubai!”

Shahzad Qureshi, a Pakistani national has been visiting the store for over 15 years.

He comes from Jumeirah: “My friends used to bring me here in the early days.... It would make things difficult if this store were to go away. Many of the brands that I got used to when I worked in America, I can only find here.”

My mother who lives as far away as Al Barsha, still comes here to buy food. The store is now more organised, and looks different after the renovation, but I am still familiar with many of the aisle staff and the manager who have been here for a long time. It’s good to see familiar faces.

- Haya Al Khatib

Appeal 

And this availability of a range of US-sourced products continues to draw most customers.

Shruti, who works as a freelance make-up artist, prefers the store because of its variety of American imports. “Many of the brands such as Kool-aid that I got used to during my undergrad programme in the US, are only available here.”

For some it is the in-house items that are part of the appeal.

Essa Juma who works with Dubai Police and a regular at the supermarket for a long time, said he visits the store for the bakery.

“They are very different here,” he said, and pointed out that examples of this included the “mini-donut balls and samoon [a type of yeast bread]”.

He added: “This supermarket was initially part of the bowling centre on Shaikh Zayed Road.”

Augustin Das from India, who works as a chef, added that he appreciated some of the products because they “make cooking convenient, but aren’t common elsewhere in Dubai, such as pre-prepared tart shells”.

New Safestway is one of the reputed stores that are a reminder of the warmth of Dubai.

- Salwa Al Jawi

But, the one common sentiment shared by all those who spoke to Gulf News and best summarised by Salwa Al Jawi, a customer of almost ten years: “New Safestway is one of the reputed stores that are a reminder of the warmth of Dubai.”

Krishna Swamy, general manager for West Zone, said that they were well aware of the significance the store has in the community.

He told Gulf News: “We are aware that Safestway is very popular and people are connected to it and we are more than happy to be connected with Safestway.”

- The writer is a trainee with the Social Media Team